Gender and Genocide: How Women in Germany Contributed to the Nazi Killing Machine

By Austin Pellizzer

 In the book Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields by Wendy Lower, Lower discusses in-depth the way women as a whole were not just complacent in the slaughter of millions of people under the Nazi regime, but rather, they played an instrumental roll in perpetuating the Nazi system both at home and abroad in the East (6). 

By giving women heavily controlled agency (11) to serve the State in significant ways such as on the Eastern front, in the medical corps, and or behind a desk, there were also social expectations they needed to uphold (21). Hitler believed that the roles of women were both in the movement and the home. He stated, “What man offers in heroism on the field of battle, woman equals with unending perseverance and sacrifice, with unending pain and suffering,” …”Every child she brings into the world is a battle, a battle she wages for the existence of her people. The National Socialist Community of the Volk was established on a firm basis precisely because millions of women became our most loyal, fanatical fellow-combatants” (22). As we can see, there were sharp contrasts and gendered roles prescribed from the highest levels of the Reich. These women were expected to fall in line with the Nazi policies and suppress their feelings. While also producing the perfect Aryan offspring (22) to support the thousand-year Reich.

With this, one question stuck out to me throughout the chapters that dealt with the ideas of performative gender and To what extent did these women have to walk a fine line between being a mother and embodying female Aryan ideals while taking on a hardened and ‘masculine’ trait of being ruthless and a murderer? Did these women have to police themselves to ensure one did not perform more of one gendered characteristic over the other? Did these women change their demeanour based on their social environments? And, what were society’s perceptions of these evil women who committed such unspeakable atrocities?

Works Cited

Wendy Lower, Hitler’s Furies (Houghton Mifflin, 2013)

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